this is a funny sort of disc. I suppose it’s not really the
kind of release that usually gets into a critic’s hands at all,
but my curiosity to hear Boult conducting Haydn led me to request
will see from the cover scan that the selling-point is the “Surprise”
Symphony. If you buy it for that without looking at the details
on the back you’ll be in for a surprise when you get home, and
not the one Haydn intended – only the slow movement is included!
the idea was to introduce newcomers to the genius of Haydn,
it would have been a good idea to start with something he really
wrote. It was back in 1965 that Alan Tyson revealed that the
op. 3 String Quartets were really the work of Hoffstetter and
most recording companies have caught up with the news by now.
While they were thought to be by Haydn this serenade was one
of “his” most popular works and many people believed it to be
a charming piece of music. Then it turned out not to be by Haydn
and of course this meant that it was a rubbishy thing, not worth
hearing at all. Those uninfluenced by the name of the composer
might enjoy hearing it again, played in the old-fashioned way
by a string orchestra. There’s lots of affectionate tonal shading
of the sort that people used to think beautiful until Historically
Informed Practice came along to teach them it wasn’t. Volume
13 of the Sounds of Excellence “200 Greatest Classics” series
has this same recording under Hoffstetter’s name, by the way,
so it’s not as if they didn’t know.
Divertimento in F is a slightly specialized choice for the context,
but it will certainly alert newcomers to Haydn’s exploration
of unusual sonorities, especially in the first movement. It
is well played and the recording is pleasant and clear. The
three movements are given a single track. Leslie Jones and the
Little Orchestra of London were familiar figures on the recording
scene in the 1970s. They set down, among other things, a much-praised
set of the Haydn London Symphonies and were the first to record
Beethoven with scaled-down forces – Symphonies 1 and 8 on Unicorn.
Their recording of the complete Haydn Divertimenti op.31 on
two Oryx LPs – 1740-1 – was advertised in the October 1972 Gramophone
and I presume this is the source for the present disc.
“Old Austrian People’s Hymn” turns out to be the theme – without
the variations – as it appears in the “Emperor” quartet. The
transcription is a straightforward one for strings with some
alterations to the cello part. It is played slowly and reverently,
not really like a national anthem.
Graunke is a name that often crops up in these cheap reissues.
Born in 1915, he founded the Graunke Symphony Orchestra after
the Second World War and conducted it until 1989, when it became
the Munich Symphony Orchestra. He composed 9 symphonies and
did much film work, including some Walt Disney productions.
A keen cyclist, he took part in a senior cycling contest at
the age of 76. He died in 2005.
name of Richard Tiling produces nothing of interest to the Googler
unless he needs his floor redone, but Richard Tilling has quite
a few discs to his name, including one dedicated to Chopin and
various odds and ends in the “200 Greatest Classics” series
ranging from Mozart to Satie. He is presumably also the arranger
of the Serenade and Austrian Hymn. Or maybe not. This is evidently
a pretty old recording, since headphone listening reveals a
heavy LP surface – and some clicks towards the end – which has
been de-noised fairly ruthlessly. Inevitably, the sound is synthetic
and not very pleasant but the performance is straightforward
and sympathetic. Any German reader with information about Tilling
is invited to write to the bulletin board. In the November 1972
Gramophone Oryx announced the UK issue of the complete piano
music of Haydn played by Artur Balsam and deriving from the
Musical Heritage Society of New York. I have never heard these.
only result of a Google search for Hans Natievsky is the present
recording, but Hans Matievsky is more productive. An Oryx LP,
no.17 in the Basic Record Library, had the Salzburg Mozart –
not Mozarteum – Orchestra under Matievsky playing the Surprise
Symphony – all of it – plus the Trumpet Concerto with André
Barraud and the Italian Overture, whatever that is. This was
advertised in the February 1974 Gramophone. I take it Platinum
have information that the actual Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
was playing out of contract under a very thinly disguised pseudonym.
As for Matievsky, your guess is as good as mine. The same team
also recorded some Mozart, including two violin concertos with
Tibor Varga, who was certainly real. Some of these Mozart performances
have also resurfaced from Platinum. This single movement is
played cleanly, seriously and unimaginatively.
may be wondering by now if the Boult 104th is really
his, but I think it is. It’s certainly by a conductor with firm
ideas and no concern for scaled-down sonorities. There’s a sense
of romantic awakening in the introduction and the Allegro begins
very gently with an almost Elgarian nobility. The slowish tempo
soon comes into its own since the violins are really digging
into their faster figuration. Boult’s keen rhythmic sense ensures
that, while it may be majestic, it is never heavy. Here and
in the slow movement he really sees that all Haydn’s surprising
harmonic twists register. The Minuet and Trio has a glorious
Ländler-like swing. The finale is again slowish. The drone bass
at the beginning is made to sound ominous, but there is soon
a feeling of jubilation and I seemed to see Brueghel’s peasants
a comparison I first tried Mögens Wöldike, a version that must
be about contemporary under a conductor noted for his Haydn.
He certainly provides a more bracing sort of energy at brisker
tempi. He was less noted for his poetry and the slow movement
seemed a bit plain beside Boult. Beecham’s LPO recording certainly
could not be found plain. He is more concerned with elegance,
his minuet evoking periwigged aristocrats. It is obviously very
fine given its point of view.
was synonymous with Haydn for many British music lovers from
the 30s to the early 60s. Michael Kennedy’s biography of Boult
contains no reference to this recording and very few to his
conducting Haydn at all. He did, however, include this symphony
in a tour of Germany by the LPO in 1951. I get the idea his
Haydn was potentially of more importance than his Mozart, which
is slightly better documented. I don’t say he would have been
better than Beecham but he could certainly have offered a very
interesting alternative. He leaves you in no doubt that this
is important music.
suspect the recording may come from about the same time as the
1957 Vanguard Beethoven sessions, some of which have also appeared
on Platinum. Like them, it’s in good enough stereo to show the
violins all on the right, unusually for Boult, and the reverberation
period is similarly long.
I said, this is a funny sort of record, but Boult collectors
will want to hear the symphony and if they think they are buying
only that, they should find added value at least in the Divertimento.